By MARY CALLAHAN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rashad Butler, seated in the front, was assigned to take the photos when he and his dad took a helicopter tour of New York City a few years back.
But not a single frame was shot — because, says his dad, Butler was too fascinated with the pilot and his handling of the aircraft to take any pictures.
It was an early indication of a growing interest in aviation that would send the recent Windsor High School grad to flight training at age 15 and prompt him later to enlist in the Marine Corps, which he joins this fall.
“When he told me about the experience,” his grandma, Mae Kiriaze of Windsor, said of the helicopter flight, “I could just see the light in his eyes and on his face, and I could tell that it was something he just had a passion about.”
Butler soon was investing big bucks in aviation video games, his father, Jeremy Butler said. And for her grandson’s 15th birthday, Kiriaze gave him a “Fun Flight” through Santa Rosa’s Dragonfly Aviation, which provides brief, hands-on introductions to flying in which the client does about 90 percent of the piloting, Dragonfly pilot Josh Gordon said.
Butler, now 17, has been taking flight lessons ever since, with help from his grandmother, and he is on track to get his license this fall.
“You feel kind of free up there, I guess is the best way to explain it. It’s different,” he said. “The first time there were a lot of bumps and shakes that kind of freak you out because of turbulence. … But you get used to it fast.”
Born in Santa Rosa, Butler attended Hidden Valley Elementary School and later moved to Windsor with his family, attending Windsor Middle and High schools, where he enjoyed history and English and was enrolled in the Vineyard Academy core curriculum as an upper classman.
Most of his flying had been limited to summer visits to family in Arkansas until three years ago, when he and his dad took a flight to New York and toured the skies overhead.
Butler finished high school in June and would one day like to be a commercial airline pilot. He hopes a tour of duty with the Marines, hopefully as a pilot, will prove a stepping stone to a post-military career.
But he’d always imagined spending some time in the armed services anyway, although he didn’t choose a branch until last winter, selecting the Marines because of the reputed rigor of its boot camp and its proud image.
He enlisted in the Marines in January through its delayed entry program.
“The appeal is serving the country and being part of something bigger than yourself,” he said.
He now works out daily, twice a week at the Marines’ recruitment center in Santa Rosa, and he also attends monthly training sessions.
In November, he heads off to San Diego for three months of boot camp.
His dad said he “wasn’t too happy at first” with his son’s decision to join the military, potentially putting himself in harm’s way.
“But he’s all, ‘You know, it’s a gateway to get me where I want to go,’ and when he said that, I said, ‘I can’t deny you that,’<TH>” the elder Butler said.
The Marines also are getting a terrific cook with the junior Butler, whose interest in cooking began developing at age 3, his dad said.
He makes a killer chicken pot pie with chicken broth and pie crust from scratch, and a cake he made in culinary class last year won best tasting, Jeremy Butler said.
Cooking “is kind of like a stress reliever for me, I guess,” Rashad Butler said.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Birthplace: Santa Rosa
Lives with: parents, Jeremy and Wendy Butler; brother Cyrus, 11; and dog, Peanut.
What’s in his iPod: Hip hop and ‘60s soul, such asthe Temptations
Favorite hobby: Listening to music, riding his bike, cooking, reading.
Dream job: Commercial pilot
Favorite TV show: “Adventure Time”on Cartoon Network.
Favorite food: Sushi
Quote: “You feel kind of free up there, I guess is the best way to explain it. It’s different.”